By Rosemary Low

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Lorikeets are among the most colourful, active and entertaining aviary birds it is possible to keep.

  • In this article I will discuss the species likely to be available in the UK.
  • Ten or 20 years ago the choice was much wider.
  • Since then many lories, including breeding pairs, have been exported, so today the choice is greatly diminished, as is the ease of acquiring them.
  • The two most freely available lorikeets are the Green-naped (Trichoglossus h.haematodus)
    and the Swainson’s or Rainbow Lorikeet (T.h.moluccanus).

  • Their care does not differ.

  • Both are good subjects for the beginner with lorikeets

    • who must be aware that these birds need to be fed twice daily

    • Being less aggressive than most other lories and lorikeets, they are suitable for lory exhibits in zoos
      (and safari parks) where the public can enjoy the experience of lorikeets climbing all over them
      to take nectar from tiny cups.

    • Anyone who is thinking of keeping these birds will learn a lot about them

      • (including how shrill and messy they can be!)

    • by visiting, for example, Paradise Park in Cornwall or Woburn Safari Park

      • (or better still, Jurong Bird Park in Singapore which has the world’s biggest lory exhibit).

The Green-naped

  • is the nominate form of the species that has more sub-species than any other parrot in existence

    • more than 20.

    • It can be difficult to identify some of these as the differences are so subtle.

    • They occur in New Guinea, throughout the islands of Indonesia, in the Solomon Islands
      and in New Caledonia.

    • They measure 10in to 12in (25cm to 31cm) long,

    • the Swainson’s being the largest.

The Swainson’s or Rainbow Lorikeet

  • is found only in Australia.

  • Many people have seen film of these birds at Currumbin Sanctuary in Queensland.

  • One of the most famous sights in Australian nature,

  • the birds there are attracted to artificial food and at times arrive in their hundreds, creating
    one of the most vivid spectacles on earth.

  • However, feeding these wild birds on bread and sugar solution creates health problems,
    as many vets in the vicinity know

    • members of the public taking sick wild birds to them.

  • This underlines the importance of correct feeding of birds rearing young.

 Massena’s Lorikeet   (T.h.massena)

  • Another sub-species that is available

  • As wild-caught lories and lorikeets are still imported from the Solomon Islands but are not
    (or should not be) imported from Indonesia, Massena’s Lorikeets and Yellow-bibbed Lories
    are fairly readily available.

Goldie’s, Iris and Meyer’s Lorikeets   (Trichoglossus goldiei, iris and Trichoglossus flavoviridis meyeri)

  • Three small lorikeets are sometimes offered for sale.

  • with a body size no larger than an exhibition Budgerigar.

  • I would recommend that the larger lorikeets are kept in flights 15ft (4.5m) long

    • (or certainly no less than 12ft – 3.6m)

  • but Goldie’s and Meyer’s can be kept and bred in cages only 6ft (1.8m) long.

  • They are also among the quietest of the lorikeets.

Meyer’s are a study in green and yellow

  • – more soberly coloured than most lorikeets but very prettily marked with pleasing personalities.

  • They warble and chatter in a way that is reminiscent of Budgerigars.

Although Iris Lories are small, they need a flight at least 10ft (3m) long and really enjoy a 15ft (4.5m) aviary.

  • They are a little noisier than the other two small species but are very beautiful with outgoing personalities.


  • are the shyest of the group and like to hide away in lots of leafy branches.

  • As with the Meyer’s and the Iris, they lay two eggs, incubated by the female for about 23 days.

  • Young spend about eight weeks in the nest.

  • On fledging their plumage is duller with dull plum colour rather than scarlet on the head.

  • The personality of this little lorikeet is more subdued and less playful than that of Trichoglossus species

    • – in fact they are wrongly classified in this genus.

  • They tend to move about in a cautious manner, with the head held low, almost horizontal to the body.

  • Leafy branches in which to climb and hide will greatly enhance their environment.

  • This is, of course, true for all lorikeets but none more so than Goldie’s.

  • Branches containing blossom, such as elder, apple and pear, will provide food and amusement for
    all the species mentioned.

  • They are mainly nectar feeders (feeding on pollen and nectar in the wild)

    • and also consume such fruits as apple, pear, grapes, oranges and Satsumas, and pomegranate.

    • unlike some lories, they crave wild green-foods such as flowering heads of dandelion (pollen),
      chickweed and seeding dock.

  • One point to watch when lorikeets are breeding is

    • that they might cease to brood the chicks when these are aged between 10 and 14 days.

  • Even during our so-called summer this could lead to the death of young chicks.

  • For this reason a brooder should be kept running and nest inspection should be made early every morning.

  • Chilled chicks can either be quickly warmed up and returned to the nest during the summer,

  • or removed for hand-rearing in the colder months.

  • Once a chick becomes cold it does not cry for food and will not be fed.

  • Hunger and cold will kill it, especially if it is a single chick.

  • Problems are most likely to arise if the nest litter is not changed regularly and becomes damp.

  • While drilling holes in the bottom of the nest-box helps,

  • there is no alternative to changing the litter,

  • although this can be difficult with some aggressive lories.

  • I wait until the parents have left the nest to feed,

    • slip a piece of cardboard over the nest hole,

    • then from inside the nest I stuff a towel in the nest entrance.

The Eos lories

  • are recognised by their basically red plumage.

  • Availability in the UK varies from obtainable if you search (Red),

  • to declining and hard to find (Black-winged and Violet-necked.)

  • These lories are wonderfully entertaining aviary birds.

  • They are active and playful and need a flight at least 12ft (3.6m) long and a minimum of 3ft (91cm) wide.

  • The nest-box should be in position throughout the year for roosting purposes

  • and is best placed in the shelter or indoor part during the winter months.

  • Hardy birds, they do not need heated accommodation.

  • Red Lories were sometimes kept as pets (and can learn to talk)

    • but being such active birds they do best in an aviary.

  • The protein content of the diet should, perhaps, be slightly higher than that of most other lories.

  • This can be achieved with the use of a little soaked or sprouted sunflower seed.

    • especially when they have chicks,

    • an egg-rearing food or a food mixed with chopped fruit.

    • Those who use cooked beans and pulses for other birds, can offer some to the lories as well.

  • The numbers of these lories in the wild have declined due to over-trapping.

    • in some areas, to deforestation.

  • It was for these reasons that Indonesia banned their export in 1995

    • yet export continues.

  • (Indonesia has many more serious problems than trade in birds.)

  • But the EC has rightly prohibited their importation into Europe.

  • The effect of this prohibition is now apparent.

  • Red Lories are no longer common and the Violet-necked has almost disappeared in the UK.

  • It is imperative that more breeders show an interest in these species

    • if we are not to lose them altogether.

  • They are greatly undervalued, in financial and aesthetic terms.

The Red Lory (Eos bornea)

  • has always been the best known member of the genus,

  • with a long history in aviculture.

  • It occurs on Seram and some of the smaller Moluccan islands.

  • Only the birds from Buru are distinguishable (sub-species cyanonothus)

    • by the darker shade of red.

  • The plumage of immature birds varies in individuals;

  • some birds have blue on the ear coverts and blue margins to the feathers of the underparts.

  • Beak and iris are brown when young birds leave the nest; this colour is quickly lost.

Blue-streaked Lories (Eos reticulata)

  • are extremely beautiful

  • and surely greatly underrated.

  • To see them in display is unforgettable.

  • Both sexes will strut along the perch, arching the neck, hissing and nuzzling each other’s faces.

  • The male especially stretching to his full height.

  • This species comes from the Tanimbar Islands, east of Timor and south of Seram.

The Black-winged Lory (Eos cyanogenia)

  • is from the island of Biak.

  • Two other smaller islands on which it was or is found, Manim and Numfor,

    • have been almost totally cleared of primary forest.

The Violet-necked Lory (Eos squamata riciniata) and the Obi sub-species (E.s.obiensis)

  • are the smallest members of the genus at 10in (26cm) and 9in (23cm).

  • The Obi from the island of that name,

    • was unknown in aviculture until 1987.

    • Few were imported into the UK and few were bred.

    • An effort should be made to find odd birds and pair them up.

Eos lories

  • are usually easy to breed.

  • Two eggs are laid and incubated by the female for 24 or 25 days.

  • Young spend about ten weeks in the nest.

  • There is a tendency for chicks to be plucked in the nest,

    •  but young feather up quickly after fledging.

The Lorius lories
an the Yellow-bib).

  • are now represented in UK aviculture mainly by the Black-cap and the Yellow-bib.

  • The Black-cap (Lorius lory) breeds well and young are sometimes available.

  • It is a wonderful aviary bird but it must be admitted that its voice is loud.

  • As aviary birds they often become tame.

  • They have great character and their display is amusing to watch.

  • The red-breasted form, erythrothorax, is the only sub-species readily available here now.

  • The nominate race has black almost up to the throat and right round to the nape.

  • Young birds of the sub-species erythrothorax look quite different from adults with a blue ring
    right around the neck.

    • Producing hybrids from these two or any other sub-species must be avoided.

The Purple-naped Lory (Lorius domicellus)

  • is, sadly, a bird which has been endangered by trade.

  • Few birds are exported because they are eagerly sought as pets on the island of Seram.

  • They occur nowhere else.

  • Most books erroneously give the range to include Amboina (now extinct there)

  • and Buru (probably escaped pet birds).

  • Worldwide numbers of Purple-naped lories in aviculture are low and the breeding success rate is poor.

  • There are literally only one or two breeders in the UK.

The Yellow-bibbed Lory (Lorius chlorocercus)

  • is a lovely-looking bird.

  • Young birds have less yellow on the "bib" but the black patch on the side of the neck is present.

  •  Found only in the Solomon Islands.

  • This lory was almost unknown in aviculture until 1991 when its export was permitted for the first time.

  • The only member of the genus without a black cap is the Chattering Lory (Lorius g.garrulus)

    • and its sub-species the Yellow-backed (L.g.flavopalliatus).

  • The latter was formerly kept and bred in larger numbers in the UK than any other member of the genus.

  • It is admired for its gorgeous plumage and appealing personality.

  • A few are kept as pets and, like the Black-cap, some are excellent mimics.

  • This species originates from the northern Moluccan islands of Indonesia.

  • It is declining due to deforestation and trapping.


The Lorius species lay two eggs

  • which are incubated for 25 or 26 days by the female.

  • The young spend between ten and 11 weeks in the nest.

  • As in all lories, in the male and female are alike

    • DNA feather-sexing is recommended.

    • Surgical sexing is more risky for lories than for other parrots.

A word of warning about Lorius species.

  • They can never, ever be trusted with other birds in an aviary or pet situation.

  • They can be killers!!

  • An aviary for these lories should be about 15ft (4.5m) long.

  • If they lack exercise, they can become overweight.

  • In any case, it is good to see them flying.

  • How else can one appreciate the beauty of the bright yellow under wing coverts of the
    Chattering and Yellow-backed Lories?

  • I have never been without lories and lorikeets since 1971;

    • indeed, for most of that time they have outnumbered other parrot species in my aviaries.

  • In this article I use the term "lory" to include lorikeets as well.

    • What is the difference?

    • Lorikeets have long tails. (The terms are the equivalent of parrot and parakeet.)

  • My favourite characteristics of lories are their playfulness,

  • their inquisitive behaviour and their capacity for great affection towards human companions
    and those of their own kind.

  • There are few other species of birds that you can watch rolling around on the aviary floor,

  • usually locked in a friendly tussle with a companion or sibling.

  • I never tire of watching them at play.

  • They are exceptionally inquisitive birds, not only taking a keen interest in everything that is going on,

    • but wanting to investigate.

    • Unlike other birds, this usually means testing with the tongue.

  • The species vary in their capacity for affection

  • but this is probably at its height in Chalcopsitta species, especially the Black.

  • It is touching to watch the affection of which they are capable.

  • The personality varies greatly according to the species

    • – and there are 53 species!

  • However, only a small number are well known in aviculture.

  • I will generalise on their "good and bad points" and mention their advantages and disadvantages.


  • They are great fun to keep because they are so playful and active.

  • They don’t sit around most of the day doing nothing!

  • They are also inventive in their play.

  • They are so beautiful and brightly coloured – a delight to the eye.

  • They breed with relative ease.


  • Most of the larger species are noisy and some have piercing calls.

  • They are extremely aggressive towards other birds.

  • They must be fed twice daily

    • (I would consider this to be desirable, whatever species one keeps).

  • They need a lot of exercise;

    • if they are confined to a cage they will become overweight and bored,

    • leading to screaming sessions.

    • Most lories are unsuited to cage life

    • keeping them this way is very time-consuming

      • because one is forever cleaning the wire of the sticky droppings and little pieces of fruit
        that adhere to it.

  • In the UK (unlike in the USA, for example) few lories and lorikeets are kept as pets.

  • They are usually favoured by breeders and kept in pairs in outdoor aviaries.

  • However, certain species, especially Green-naped and Swainson’s can make excellent pets if hand-reared

  • and acquired very young.

  •  Because all lories and lorikeets are so sociable,

  • I believe that it is unfair to hand-rear them in the company of their own kind then sell them as pets
    if they will thenceforth be isolated from their other lories.

  • Lories and lorikeets might breed at any time of the year.

  • Many chicks hatched during the coldest months die at about the age of ten days.

  • It is therefore advisable to remove them for hand-rearing.

  • Occasionally hand-reared males fail to identify with other lories

    • all they want is human companionship.

    • Such birds can make fantastic pets.

Specially adapted tongues

  • To understand lories and lorikeets you need to know that the tongue is specially constructed to
    enable them to collect pollen and nectar from blossoms.

  • The tip of the tongue contains tiny brushes or papillae.

  • These are developed to a varying degree according to the species and its environment.

  • Those in which nectar and pollen play a large part in the diet,

    • such as Stella’s and other Charmosyna lorikeets,

    • they attain maximum development and the tongue is longer than in other species.

    • It is so long in Stella’s, for example, that the tongue can be waved around outside the mouth

      • (perhaps to clean the beak).

  • The papillae are well developed in most species, even in the Green-naped,

  • which is among the more omnivorous species.

  • The brushes on the tongue are the least developed in the Iris and Musschenbroek’s Lorikeets.

  • The latter species has a relatively heavier and more powerful bill

    • which it perhaps uses to extract grubs from beneath tree bark.

    • Mine are passionately fond of wax moth larvae, some of which they receive daily.

  • In all species the papillae are contained within small sheaths.

  • These are unfurled only when the bird is feeding or exploring with its tongue.

  • At other times the tongue looks like that of other parrots.

  • A tame lory will stretch out its tongue to reach a piece of fruit or blossom held just outside its cage,

  • so you can easily examine the tongue.

Feeding Lories 

Lory food

  • Commercially produced lory food can be obtained in powder form,

  • to which you add water.

  • As in any range of products these vary in quality.

  • Just as pellets are marketed as the complete food for parrots

  • this cannot apply to all species because probably no two have precisely the same requirements,

  • a particular lory food cannot suit all species of lories.

  • Those that might be described as omnivorous:

    • such as the larger Trichoglossus species like the Green-naped and Swainson’s,

    • and Lorius species such as the Black-capped

      • will probably thrive on almost any nectar

      • because they consume a wide variety of other foods.

    • In contrast, the species which are mainly nectivorous

    • such as the Charmosyna species (except Stella’s)

    • and Chalcopsitta species such as Yellow-streaked and Black

      • are much more sensitive.

      • If they do not look well and/or they are not breeding, change the brand of nectar.

  • It is difficult for most people to know if a nectar food is well formulated.

  • However, I would suggest avoiding those that are based on cheap products

    • such as maize and wheat and avoid one that is excessively sweet.

    • It should taste pleasant and a little sweet.

    • In my opinion most manufacturers give instructions that make up the nectar too thick.

    • Among the most sensitive species are the little Whiskered Lorikeets.

      • They like nectar well diluted, not thick.

      • Nekton’s Nektar-Plus or a sunbird nectar is most suitable for them.

I make up my own nectar.

  • I buy in quantity 2kg tubs of malt extract and honey from a wholesale whole foods outlet

  • as it can be difficult to find malt extract.

    • I use a very full dessertspoonful of malt extract and one of honey dissolved in very hot water

    • then add a little cold water

    • a full dessertspoonful of Lory CéDé

    • and enough hot water to make up one litre, to serve warm.

  • You need to keep stirring when serving to prevent the CéDé from settling on the bottom of the jug.

  • In my opinion Lory CéDé makes up too thick if used alone.

    • (It is also a good hand-rearing food for chicks more than ten days old.)

    • The analysis of this food is 15.7% crude protein, 3.5% crude fat, 67% carbohydrate and 1% calcium.

  • Nectar should be offered in stainless steel containers,

  • either fairly shallow or not filled to the top

  • as lories do not like drinking from deep containers.

  • It is better to offer two shallow ones that one deep one

    • as most kinds of nectar settle after a while, leaving water on the top.

  • It is a good idea to vary the nectar offered to prevent the diet becoming too monotonous,

  • perhaps using one type in the morning and another in the afternoon or evening.

  • I often offer Nekton-Lori in the evening and always give it to pairs rearing young.

Fruits and vegetables

  • The universal favourite fruit of lories is the pomegranate. 

  • Non-seasonal fruits that can be offered on a daily basis are:

    • apple, pear, grapes, orange (especially sweet Satsumas), banana and kiwi.

    • Papaya, cactus fruits and guavas are also relished.

    • Some lories will eat other fruits, such as mangoes and strawberries.

    • Dried sultanas which have been soaked in water overnight until pump are a great favourite.

    • My birds also like dried figs that have been soaked.

    • Small pieces of wholegrain bread, offered daily, and immediately dunked in the nectar,
      are another great favourite.

  • Fruit is best cut into small pieces and offered in a separate stainless steel container.

  • Alternatively, it can be spiked on to a stainless steel holder.

  • Some lory keepers liquidise fruit and add it to the nectar.

  • However, unless it will all be eaten in a couple of hours this might not be a good idea in warm weather.

  • All lories should be fed in the inside part of the aviary.

  • In summer wasps and flies can be a big problem

    • as they fill the nectar pots of lories kept outdoors.

  • In winter the nectar can freeze outdoors.

  • I always feed my lories at first light

    • and this would be especially important for those kept outdoors where the nectar can freeze.

  • Frozen, thawed sweetcorn is a favourite with all my lories.

  • Some will also eat raw carrot and celery;

  • these are pushed through the welded mesh.

  • Cooked red bell pepper is eagerly eaten by one of my Iris.

  • Only a few lorikeets, notably Stella’s and Whiskered, like green leaves.

  • Swiss chard, spinach, chickweed, sowthistle and young dandelion leaves are the most suitable.

  • Flowers from non-poisonous plants and trees will be greatly enjoyed,

    • to play with and to take the pollen.

  • These include apple and elder blossom, flowering heads of dandelion and flowers of hibiscus and nasturtiums.

  • In the wild many lorikeets eat green seeds.

  • In captivity Trichoglossus lorikeets like spray millet.

  • Small striped sunflower seed – preferably soaked – can be offered when they are rearing young.

  • Lorius and Eos lories (such as the Red) also like sunflower seed,

  • but this should be limited.

  • Lorius species will also eat cooked or soaked pulses;

    • they are among the most omnivorous and can be offered a range of items nearly as wide as
      one would give to seed-eating parrots.

  • Remember that lories and lorikeets have a faster metabolism than other parrots

  • and liquid food goes through them very quickly.

  • The small species need to have nectar in front of them at all times.

  • The small dry pellets made for lories are unsuitable for most species,

  • and might not even be recognised as food.

  • So, you might unintentially be "starving" your bird by offering this dried foods!!

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